DiSalvo: Yes, this Pitkin County sheriff’s race is all too personal | AspenTimes.com

DiSalvo: Yes, this Pitkin County sheriff’s race is all too personal

Joe DiSalvo
Pitkin County Sheriff
Joe DiSalvo
Courtesy photo

The tone and tactics involved in this election season’s race for Pitkin County sheriff have been difficult for me and my family.

That’s because I’ve known my opponent, Michael Buglione, for more than 42 years, and he is a former member of my family. He was married to my sister, and my parents accepted him as a son, and I accepted him as a brother.

I’m sorry the personal attacks from my opponent’s campaign have sunk as low as they have; but, here we are, and I feel the need to respond and not react to some of these groundless accusations. 

My opponent and his surrogates say that I am disconnected from my office and this community. This is patently false. 

I moved to Aspen in 1980 not knowing a single person, and, for the past 42 years, it is the only place I’ve called home. Thirty-seven of those years have been serving this community as a peace officer, and I have been proud to be your sheriff for the past 12 years. A simple Google search of my name will unlock every bit of information on me and my career or visit disalvoforsheriff.com

To be frank, the only true allegation of disconnection in the race for sheriff sticks solidly to my opponent. Mr. Buglione has been away from this dynamic profession for three years. He has spent that time working for developers and not keeping up with law-enforcement training or trends. 

The sheriff is crucial to public safety, disaster response, jail operations, 911 communications, search and rescue and whatever other emergency strikes the county at any given time. These responsibilities cannot be left to an inexperienced newcomer with no ability to manage complex, dynamic, sometimes dangerous situations. 

My track record, on the other hand, is clear. I have served as sheriff for 12 years and effectively handled a major wildfire on our doorstep, numerous high-profile events and investigations and a global pandemic. I have well-established relationships with state and federal partners ready to help if Pitkin County needs it. 

My opponent has none of these connections and no track record in emergency management. 

Mr. Buglione has continually touted his integrity during this campaign. However, an incident involving the issue of affordable housing — something nearly every working local must worry about — proves this nothing but a hollow boast. 

From 2017-22, Mr. Buglione was the sole leaseholder on an Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority unit in Aspen. During the recent Squirm Night, he was asked if he ever subleased his APCHA apartment. He said he had subleased it with APCHA permission. 

APCHA, however, has no record of ever granting that permission. Also, a check of public records from the Pitkin County assessor’s website shows Mr. Buglione has owned a home in Basalt since 2020. As any local knows, you cannot sublease your APCHA unit, and you most certainly can’t own another property while holding an APCHA lease. 

And, that brings us to the jail, another source of misinformation from my opponent. 

A recent newspaper ad from a retired county judge, paid for by my opponent, contained the following quote, “We don’t need a thirty-five million dollar vanity project.” This is an uninformed opinion written as fact.

The simple fact is we don’t know how much the jail improvements will cost or even what they will be. This process is just starting. The former judge and other purveyors of these falsehoods are using this as political fodder to distort the true facts. 

My focus for the next four years will be to work with the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners, consultants, staff and the community to find solutions to our decaying jail. My wish list is to create an innovative humane way to incarcerate criminals and integrate mental health and addiction services to the facility. 

Finally, there’s the incident at Bumps. Again, the simple facts of the well-documented investigation clearly show that Mr. Buglione put children at risk. The following excerpt from the County Manager’s Office report on the incident sums it up nicely.

“The decision by Mr. Buglione not to attend this assigned event or ensure another Law Enforcement Officer attended demonstrated lack of initiative, judgment and understanding the ramifications of no law enforcement presence at an event where law enforcement presence was expected,” according to the report. “Mr. Buglione’s decision was a critical error in judgment from a sergeant, a position that requires superior judgment; circumstances of this event placed vulnerable members of this community at risk.”

Mr. Buglione’s 2018 evaluation showed a lower level of rating than the prior year, an indicator of declining performance. 

Serving as Pitkin County sheriff requires earning the trust of the community, the integrity to be honest and transparent and the ability to admit mistakes. After all, mistakes are just learning opportunities in disguise. These are qualities my opponent does not possess. The evidence is in the tone and direction of his campaign and his past refusal to take responsibility for his actions. 

On the other hand, I have always taken responsibility for my actions. I run a clean, effective, transparent law-enforcement agency that actively serves our residents and visitors. The Sheriff’s Office staff is as strong and capable as it’s ever been in my decades on staff. 

In short, there’s a saying at the Sheriff’s Office coined by a retired sheriff that I believe applies to the past 12 years of my administration: “Our business is peace and safety, and business is good.”

I humbly and respectfully ask for your vote and continue as your Pitkin County sheriff. Mail in ballots arrive this week. Please vote.

Joe DiSalvo is the Pitkin County sheriff.